Barcelona and Madrid draw in Super Cup clash

Xabi Alonso salvages a 2-2 draw for Real Madrid in first leg of Spanish season's traditional curtain-raiser.

    Real Madrid dominated for much of the match, creating better chances [Reuters]

    Xabi Alonso's second-half goal earned home side Real Madrid a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in the first-leg of their Spanish Supercup season opener.

    Alonso fired a low shot beyond goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 54th minute to equalise after Spanish champions Barcelona had stunned Madrid, last season's cup winners, by taking a 2-1 halftime lead.

    Madrid went ahead in the 13th minute through Mesut Ozil at the Bernabeu stadium and dictated play for much of the half as Barcelona's passing game lacked its usual sharpness.

    But the individual quality of Barcelona's players made up for it, as David Villa and Lionel Messi created goals out of seemingly nothing to give the Catalan side two valuable away goals.

    Barcelona may be able to field Cesc Fabregas in Wednesday's return leg at the Camp Nou after announcing during the game they had reached a deal for the Arsenal midfielder.

    "My players made a titanic effort to hold up against Madrid in this heat,'' said coach Pep Guardiola, who did not rule out Fabregas making his debut in the return game.

    Barcelona looked far from crisp as Guardiola left Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez and Gerard Pique on the bench, while counterpart Jose Mourinho fielded the same lineup that was routed 5-0
    at the Camp Nou in November.

    Chile forward Alexis Sanchez started in his Barcelona debut but was largely neutralised by Madrid's defence.
    Madrid dominated from the outset, and Valdes kept Barcelona in the game by making a number of stops on Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, including a ninth-minute header from the Frenchman.

    Benzema deserved some credit on Ozil's opener as he cut around Abidal and swiped a pass through Javier Mascherano's legs to set up the Germany playmaker, who beat Valdes at the near post from inside the area.

    Messi scores

    Madrid's upfield pressure troubled Barcelona and kept possession largely away from Messi until the Argentina forward fed Villa in the 36th minute.

    The Spain striker cut into the left edge of the area and sent a perfect shot over outstretched goalkeeper Iker Casillas into the top far corner of the net for the equaliser.

    Benzema and Ronaldo had chances shortly before Messi put the European champions ahead in the 45th. Messi bumped off Sami Khedira and past the fallen Pepe into the area before sliding a left-footed shot past Casillas inside the near post.

    "It took us time to get into the game,'' Guardiola said. "It was a very tough game, very tough. Madrid look very good so this is a good result.''

    Madrid drew even when Pepe controlled a corner kick and slid a short pass to Alonso to rocket through the crowded area.

    Madrid, which had new signings Fabio Coentrao and Jose Callejon making their first starts, continued to press as Valdes got his hands up to deny Ronaldo before catching Benzema's header in the 67th.

    Barcelona failed to test Casillas again although the visitors were unlucky not to have a penalty awarded to substitute Pedro after Marcelo barged into him inside the area just before the end.

    Mourinho, who returned Saturday to face the Spanish media for the first time since April, did not attend the post-game news conference Sunday to give his thoughts on the match.

    "The team is playing better than at this time last season,'' said assistant coach Aitor Karanka, who also filled in for Mourinho after he refused to speak to media after UEFA handed the Portuguese coach a five-match
    sanction for alleging that referees and UEFA favoyred Barcelona.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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